After a very troubling first week of the season, the New York Yankees will continue on the road for the first four days of the week with a four game set with the Cleveland Indians before coming back home to play the Baltimore Orioles for the weekend. Many expected the banged up offense to be a problem for the Yankees but the pitching was expected to hold up the injury-riddled team to at least make them competitive. With the exception of Andy Pettitte, both the starting pitching and the bullpen has not been sharp and has not held up anything. So what lies ahead and is this team as in trouble as it looks? Let's take a look.
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Four games in Cleveland is not the worst thing in the world for the Yankees. For one, the rotation in Cleveland is not deep and once the Yankees get by Ubaldo Jimenez on Monday, the underbelly of the Indians rotation will be exposed for the Yankees to exploit. Jimenez, of course, has been a major disappointment since the Indians acquired him from the Rockies. His velocity is down four miles per hour since his heady days pitching in Denver. The zip on his fastball used to hide his inability to command the strike zone. Without it, his walks become a problem and he cannot blow his way out of jams like in the past.
Hiroki Kuroda is scheduled to face Jimenez in the first game of the series, a series which will also feature Yankee fans' first look at Nick Swisher in a uniform other than the pinstripes. And yes, that will be bittersweet. But of more immediate concern is what lingering effects the bruised middle finger will have on Kuroda's pitching and if he will be able to make the start at all. Joe Girardi will most likely save Adam Warren just in case.
Monday's game features a 4:05 start time.
Tuesday night presents the Yankees a good chance to win as Andy Pettitte will face Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco did not pitch in the majors at all in 2012 and did not have an impressive spring. He was decent in 2011 for the Indians with a so-so strikeout rate and decent control. Carrasco has been prone to give up homers in his career. Pettitte gave the Yankees a wonderful outing in his first game of the season and as always, the one concerns is that he stay healthy. He has consistently shown since he un-retired that if healthy, he can still get big league hitters out with regularity. Tuesday is a 7:05 start.
Wednesday is another 7:05 start and will feature Ivan Nova against Brett Myers. Nova was a bit of a mess in his first start and could not command his fastball. But he kept the team in the game until Boone Logan came in and allowed all his inherited runners to score. Nova will continue to make Yankee fans nervous until he can find some sort of consistency that he showed in 2011.
But the good news is that Nova will face Myers who looked absolutely brutal in his first start. In that game, Myers gave up seven hits and two walks with no strikeouts in five innings and allowed seven earned runs. He faced 24 batters in his five innings and four of them hit homers. That is about as weak a rotation link as you can get. It is doubtful that Terry Francona will run Myers out there to start for very long this season.
Thursday will bring Phil Hughes back for his second start and he has a tougher assignment in Zach McAllister. McAllister has pretty good control, a decent fastball and was unlucky in his first start when his defense let him down. McAllister is a ground ball / fly ball neutral pitcher who is prone to give up the long ball more often than what is healthy, but he has a good arm and when on, could give the weakened Yankees offense some trouble.
As far as the weather is concerned, the Yankees will run into their first stretch of warmer temperatures of the season in Cleveland. Daytime highs are predicted in the sixties all week in Cleveland, but rain could be a problem. Spot showers are predicted for Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday looks like the iffier day with heavy thunderstorms forecast.
After Thursday night's game in Cleveland, the Yankees will fly home to open a three game series with the Orioles at the Stadium. Hopefully, Chris Davis will have cooled off a bit by then. The Orioles have not announced their rotational pitchers beyond Tuesday, which shows their rotation to be in a bit of a flux. The Yankees have not announced their plans beyond Thursday but you would think it would be Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte for the weekend. Perhaps Phelps would be inserted in there somewhere, but the top three will most likely get the nod.
According to the long range forecast for the Bronx, Friday looks like a problem with rain, but the weekend is predicted to be very nice, but with highs only in the fifties.
Have a good Yankees week, everybody!